Chicago Events to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Light displays, parades, festivals and theater fill Chicago's event calendar in November and December, making it a beautiful and fun city to be in during the holidays. Every one of Chicago's famous museums has its own annual holiday exhibit, but the most "Chicago" thing to do is peer in the animated windows of Macy's on State Street ( in what used to be the Marshall Fields department store. Afterward, go inside the store to shop, and admire the 45-foot Great Tree while indulging in a chicken pot pie at the famous Walnut Room restaurant. If you want to play outdoors, rent ice skates and take a spin around the outdoor ice rinks at Millennium Park or Maggie Daley Park. If the weather's bad (as it often is), ice skate indoors on the top of the John Hancock building. Those who prefer to stay out of the cold might consider seeing one of Chicago's beloved holiday theater productions, such as Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" ( or Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol." ( lovers will appreciate the elaborate "Zoo Lights" light display set up at the Lincoln Park Zoo (, or see more than 60 trees decorated from countries around the world at the Museum of Science & Industry's "Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Light" exhibit (

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of City of Chicago

Along Michigan Avenue, from Oak Street to the Chicago River, all the trees are strung with twinkling lights to signal the start of the holiday season. This year's parade is Nov. 18, 2016, and will be followed by fireworks over the Chicago...  Read More

Navy Pier Winter WonderFest
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Navy Pier

Crowds pack Navy Pier for this popular holiday festival. The pier is transformed into a winter wonderland with lights and decorations, and inside, there's an indoor carnival of games, food and rides. Mostly geared toward younger kids, there's...  Read More

Shopping on Michigan Avenue
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of City of Chicago

A two story American Girl Doll store? Or a chic Prada boutique? It's all here and more, along the mile-long shopping strip along Michigan Avenue known as "The Magnificent Mile." In the area between the Chicago River and Oak Street, there are...  Read More

Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker"
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet

Even if you're not a ballet fan, you'll be wowed - and put into the holiday spirit - by this beautiful ballet. The incredible dancing and eye-grabbing costumes is done on constantly changing, gorgeous sets. And it's all done to Tchaikovsky's...  Read More

Ice skating at Millennium Park
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

If you can dress for the weather, a fun holiday activity, either for families or couples, is to take a spin around the outdoor ice skating rink in in the middle of Chicago's scenic Millennium Park. In the heart of downtown Chicago, on Michigan...  Read More

Illumination at Morton Arboretum
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum

It's worth the drive out to the western suburbs to see this awesome and creative holiday lights display in the beautiful arboretum. You won't see Santa or Rudolph, because the arboretum's trees are the stars of this show. Walk along the...  Read More

Caroling at Cloud Gate
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of City of Chicago

The harmonious sound of local choirs ring out every Friday night between Nov. 28 and Dec. 19, 2014, in front of Chicago's iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, better known as "The Bean," in Millennium Park. They'll sing Christmas carols, and will...  Read More

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

More than 2 million lights, many in animal shapes, cover this lakefront zoo during its annual ZooLights display. Go to the Helen Brach Primate House and have your photo taken with Santa, make holiday crafts, or watch the live ice sculpture...  Read More

Holiday windows at Macy's State Street
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Macy's

Walk from window to window to peek in Macy's nostalgic holiday display. Each window features a different scene with old-school animated characters, following a holiday story or theme. Expect to see lots of Chicago Cubs-themed displays, since the...  Read More

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Timmy Samuels/Christkindlmarket

Shop for Christmas gifts and then clink your beer steins at this popular seasonal German-themed market in the center of downtown Chicago. Pricey but beautiful ornaments and other unique crafts are for sale. It's also a great place to sample...  Read More


Meet Jamie Bartosch

Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.